Self-related objects increase alertness and orient attention through top-down saliency

Biqin Li*, Wenyan Hu, Amelia Hunt, Jie Sui

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Attention is influenced by information about relationships between ourselves and the objects around us. Self-related objects can either facilitate or disrupt task performance, creating a challenge for identifying the precise nature of the influence of self-relatedness on attention. To address this challenge, we measured different components of attention (alertness and orienting) in the presence of self-related objects using a revised attention network task (ANT). In a self-association task, participants first learned colour–person associations and then carried out a colour–person matching task. This was followed by the ANT, in which these coloured boxes associated with self or friend were displayed as peripheral cues; participants had to judge the direction of an arrow flanked by congruent (low-conflict) or incongruent (high-conflict) distractors presented within one coloured box. The results showed faster and more accurate responses to targets appearing within the self-colour than friend-colour cues in the association task. In the ANT, the analysis of alertness revealed that self-related cues facilitated task performance compared with friend-related cues. The analysis of orienting demonstrated that relative to friend cues, self-cues hampered task performance in invalid trials. Critically, the effects of self-cues on both orienting and alertness were observed only in high conflict situations. These results indicated that self-related objects are powerful cues that enhance attention intensity, which either facilitates task performance when the upcoming target falls within their location or disrupts performance when the target falls outside their location. The data suggest that attentional functions can be tuned by self-saliency in high-demand contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)408-417
Number of pages10
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research reported in this publication was supported by the Leverhulme Trust (project RPG-2019-010) to J.S., and the CSC Scholarship (project 201809470005) to B.L. and J.S., and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (project 31860284) to B.L., and the project of Humanities and Social Science research in Universities of Jiangxi Province to B.L. (project XL20101, JD21041).


  • Alerting
  • Orienting
  • Self-relatedness
  • Task performance


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